The one tool Miguel Quiles always brings on a shoot for perfect light.
Sometimes you only need one light to get the job done. This was the case when I photographed model and influencer Ash Porto in downtown Denville, New Jersey.
When we set out to take her promo portraits at a pedestrian bridge near the Denville train station, it was a cloudy day and the light was fluctuating dramatically. When the weather is overcast, I usually bring a scrim or reflector to shape the available light, but since I had recently started working with the new Profoto A1X for Sony, I decided to test out the A1X alongside it—a complementary system.
I began the shoot by positioning Ash in front of the sun, and using only available light, I made a few exposures. I could quickly see she would be underexposed. Then I used a reflector to fill in the shadows, which caused her to squint, leading to an unflattering shot. Then, with the help of my makeup artist-turned-assistant, Agnes Barnet (of AB Glam Looks), we fired off the Profoto A1X on a boom pole inside the Profoto RFi Speedlight Speed Ring and Profoto 3’ RFi Octa Softbox. The resulting portraits were visually striking, clean, and could be quickly replicated at the other shoot locations that day.
As a professional portrait photographer, I value being able to set up my equipment fast and efficiently so I can get through my shoots smoothly and provide a consistent quality of work to my clients. When I teach workshops, I always recommend that photographers have a handful of go-to lighting setups to help establish a consistent quality in their work. This is a lighting setup every photographer should have in their back pocket.
Now the A1X is my go-to light even when there’s available light; it’s a clutch product.
With this setup, I’ve been able to shave off weight from my bag, preserving my back in the process. The portability has allowed me to get a variety of creative shots in a short time in varying light conditions. Now, I have no excuse for not getting the shot in less than ideal lighting situations: the A1X can be gelled or modified with umbrellas and softboxes. Before, if I didn’t have a flash with me, I would be holding my breath and waiting until the light changed. With this setup, I can get a quality image regardless of what the world throws at me. This lighting system makes me look more confident and competent. This image is emblematic of a gold standard for a professional portrait, and an attainable one—a shot that any photographer should be able to light right now.
The marketing is true—the A1X is the world’s smallest studio light! I can stick it in the side pocket of my cargo pants. There really is no reason not to bring it on every shoot.
Tips & Tricks
TURNING CHALLENGES INTO AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE BEAUTIFUL IMAGES.
- ALWAYS EXPOSE FOR AMBIENT LIGHT in camera first. Your images can change drastically depending on whether you over- or underexpose the available light in a given scene. Use this knowledge to get creative with your shots!
- PLACE LARGE MODIFIERS CLOSER to your subject for gorgeous, soft light. The same light-shaper without diffusion panels will give you a harder light. Use this to your advantage when shooting on location.
- ALWAYS HAVE A SET OF GELS handy so you can change the color of your light
- WHEN TAKING PORTRAITS, aim to have the bottom of the modifier at eye level with your subject for consistently great results.
- MAKE SURE YOUR LIGHTS are creating a catchlight (reflection of light) in your subject’s eyes. You can create a catchlight by lowering your lights or adding a reflector to the set.